UCCS installs sophisticated lightning system

By Doug Fitzgerald published May 21, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Athletic Department announced Monday that a sophisticated integrated lightning prediction and warning system has been installed just south of Mountain Lion Stadium.

The THOR GUARD system uses a sensor and computer to measure and analyze the electrostatic field in the atmosphere, within which lightning originates. The system makes calculations predicting the likelihood of a lightning occurrence even though there may not yet have been any visible sightings. Since studies conducted by the Severe Storm Laboratories in Norman, Okla., have shown that 85 percent of all deaths occur away from the storm cell, conventional lightning detection systems are often not activated until it's too late.

Colorado Springs has the second most lightning strikes among major metropolitan areas, behind only Orlando, Fla. El Paso County ranks among the top 10 counties nationally in lightning-related deaths.

"Lighting is something we have to live with in Colorado Springs," said UCCS athletic trainer Brian Hardy. "This system takes the subjectivity out of whether we should be playing or not."

While the system has been installed on UCCS property just south of Mountain Lion Stadium, the football/soccer facility at Four-Diamonds Sports Complex, it can also service the school's softball facility, Mountain Lion Field, and the three city-operated fields at the high-volume complex.

Although UCCS paid for and installed the system, many will gain benefit from its presence. Aside from the UCCS soccer team and Recreation Department, Colorado Springs Christian School also uses Mountain Lion Stadium for its football and soccer teams. Mountain Lion Field is used by a number of Colorado Springs area high school softball teams as well as UCCS' highly successful softball program. The Blue, Yellow and Green Fields are operated year-round by the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department.

The system will give off a 15-second blast any time a 30 percent probability of lightning within a five-mile radius has been calculated. A strobe light will blink until the all-clear, three five-second blasts, is given. The system can also be monitored remotely by computer.

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